Infections that can endanger the pregnancy


Infections that cause mild or moderate symptoms in the expectant mother can have serious consequences for the unborn child. They are also a major cause of congenital malformations, so you should know them and know how to prevent them.


Certain infections can harm the fetus. Photo: Shutterstock

It is important that all women who are either pregnant or planning to become pregnant do the indicated tests and be aware of the different pathogens that can lead to pregnancy loss or congenital malformations. That is why it is recommended that women who are thinking of becoming pregnant get the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine 3 months before conception or immediately after becoming pregnant. In addition, vaccines against influenza, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis are all safe during pregnancy and are recommended.

Cytomegalovirus infection

This type of infection is common at birth and increases the risk that the baby will suffer from congenital cytomegalovirus. Most children infected with this virus at birth have no symptoms. The symptoms that do appear are: low birth weight, abnormally small head and incomplete brain development, jaundice, enlargement of the liver and spleen, inflammation of the retina. Most infants who have these signs of the disease may have long-term neurological problems, such as hearing or vision loss, developmental disorders. Congenital cytomegalovirus infection increases the risk of diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis.


Rubella virus infection during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, is very serious. Complications include miscarriage, premature birth or even fetal death. Congenital rubella syndrome leads to eye, ear and heart defects, incomplete brain development, autism, mental and motor retardation. If the infection occurs in the first 11 weeks of pregnancy, there is a 90% risk that the baby will be born with congenital rubella syndrome, and after 20 weeks, the rate drops to 20%.


Herpes infection can lead to miscarriage, prematurity or low birth weight of the baby. If it occurs towards the end of pregnancy it can lead to microcephaly, inflammation of the retina, skin rashes and hydrocephalus, a condition characterized by excessive fluid accumulation in the brain. This results in an abnormal enlargement of spaces in the brain called ventricles. The risk of such devastating consequences of herpes virus infection can be reduced by taking an antiviral drug in the last month of pregnancy if the expectant mother has experienced a first episode of genital herpes during pregnancy.


Caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, toxoplasmosis is common in areas of the world that have warm, humid climates and low altitudes. It is also a parasitic infection spread mostly by cats. If you are pregnant and have a cat, avoid cleaning its litter box. Other recommendations include avoiding uncooked or partially cooked meat. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching uncooked meat and wash all utensils and dishes used in preparing the meat. Also, drink water only from safe sources and wear gloves when gardening. Toxoplasmosis infection can be transmitted to the fetus, even in the absence of symptoms, and can lead to miscarriage, the death of the baby or birth defects.

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70% of newborns with toxoplasmosis who receive prompt treatment in the first year of life develop normally

Expert advice

Dr. Andreas Vythoulkas, specialist in obstetrics-gynecology, with overspecialization in infertility

In pregnancy, immunity is lower because this defense system must be less aggressive in order not to reject the new host organism. Therefore, the risk of illness is greater for the expectant mother, but the fetus is also exposed, to which infections can be transmitted through the placenta or during birth. Those that develop during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, premature labor or birth defects in the baby. The good news is that infections can be prevented by regular hand washing, proper heat preparation of meat, avoiding the consumption of unpasteurized dairy products. If you own a cat, delegate another family member to clean the litter box to avoid the risk of infection with Toxoplasma gondii.